Benjamin Freedman | Exquisite Corpse: Exhibition

Reading Room 10 July - 7 August 2021 
Reading Room

Exhibition Dates: July 10 - August 7, 2021


Exquisite Corpse, Freedman’s first foray into autobiographical subjects, explores mythology through the lens of his Jewish heritage. The photographs investigate the 16th-century legend of the Golem, a monster constructed out of clay by Rabbi Loew in Prague, in response to pogroms and blood libels. Charged with the protection of Prague’s endangered Jewish populace cloistered within the Josefov ghetto, the artificial clay helper ultimately became a destructive force, turning against the people it was meant to serve. Over the 500 years since its conception, the story has been transcribed into such varied media as painting, film, souvenirs, and video games, and has been the basis of numerous literary works, most notably, Mary Shelley’s gothic horror, Frankenstein.


Returning to the birthplace of the mythology in 2018 and 2019, Freedman documented Prague’s gothic architecture from the time of Rabbi Loew. Using photography and experimenting with colour and its potential to suggest alternative, fictional, and surreal spaces, Freedman explores a story predating the invention of the medium, and a geographical area that has undergone tremendous transformations since the 16th century. Also included in the exhibition are photographs of Freedman’s clay anatomical studies; probing further into the paternal and creative nature of the Rabbi, who became an artist in the interest of social justice. These clay still-lifes represent both Loew’s and Freedman’s preliminary explorations into the practice of sculpture, drawing parallels between their lives and practices, and collapsing the time span between them.


While the Golem endures as an iconic symbol of Prague’s flourishing tourism industry, to Freedman, it is most emblematic of the destructive and uncontrollable developments that humanity inflicts upon itself, and the inverted notion that the things we think will keep us safe ultimately have the capacity to destroy from within.